The Latest: Union head says OT at root of prison problems
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TECUMSEH, Neb. — The Latest on a spate of violence at a Nebraska prison (all times local):
A union leader representing Nebraska correctional officers says a prison with a history of deadly riots would see less violence if employees didn't have to work as much overtime.
The executive director of the Nebraska Association of Public Employees, Mike Marvin, says workers are forced to stay on the job for overtime shifts at the Tecumseh (teh-KUHM'-sah) State Correctional Institution because of staffing shortages. He says that as a result, many employees are tired and less alert when threats arise.
Marvin says the staffing shortages have persisted because the Department of Correctional Services isn't paying enough to keep experienced employees. Some leave for better-paying jobs in county jails.
Corrections director Scott Frakes has acknowledged that overtime is a problem for the department, even though it's commonly used.
Nebraska's corrections director is defending a prison with a history of deadly riots that saw even more violence over the last week.
Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes says the Tecumseh (teh-KUHM'-sah) State Correctional Institution is not as overcrowded as other state prisons and is a relatively new facility, having opened in 2001. But he says the department is still struggling to retain experienced correctional officers and is trying to address a growing gang problem.
His comments came after an inmate punched two guards and bit a caseworker on Wednesday. Officials have also launched a criminal investigation into another inmate's suspicious death.
Two inmates were killed and others were injured during a riot at the prison on March 2. Two inmates also were killed there during a May 2015 riot.
A state senator who has been critical of Nebraska's prison system says lawmakers need to require more accountability of corrections officials before approving their request for additional money.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha says senators should think "long and hard" about problems in the Department of Correctional Services, including a lack of funding in areas that need it most.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has called on lawmakers to add 135 new front-line corrections jobs over the next two years. But the plan faces skepticism from some lawmakers who note the department is struggling to fill existing positions.
Critics say Nebraska's prisons aren't competing with higher-paying county jail jobs. Many of the prison jobs are in Tecumseh (teh-KUHM'-sah), a town of 1,700 that's roughly an hour's commute from Omaha or Lincoln.
Officials say an inmate punched two guards and bit a caseworker at a Nebraska prison with a history of deadly riots.
The Nebraska Correctional Services Department says the melee broke out Wednesday at the Tecumseh (teh-KUHM'-sah) State Correctional Institution as staffers removed apparently inebriated inmates from a housing unit.
The department said in a statement Thursday that one of the inmates started throwing punches when he learned he would be handcuffed. Staffers responded with pepper spray. The inmate then bit the caseworker's thigh.
The guards were treated at a hospital. The caseworker didn't seek medical care.
The department hasn't released the inmate's name.
Two inmates were killed and more were injured during a riot at the facility March 2. Two inmates also were killed there during a May 2015 riot.